Dapper Dan was a legend in his time, an 80′s era street couturier who spoke to the sartorial tastes of rappers, drug dealers, and athletes who had a distinctive palette for luxury with a dash of cool.
Dan was known as the man who could transform a trendy winter jacket into a logo laden piece, emblazoning it with the monograms of Italian and French fashion houses by screen printing their symbols onto leather using a fade resistant ink. In this week’s New Yorker, writer Kelefa Sanneh digs into Dan’s business, telling stories of his star studded clientele (which included Mike Tyson, Big Daddy Kane, and LL Cool J) and the ultimate conflict between street and couture (Fendi, among others, ended up suing Dan for copyright infringement several times, until Dan had to shutter his doors).
Sanneh writes, “It seems possible that, in the nineteen-eighties, Dapper Dan was the most influential haberdasher in the city. His work presaged both the rise of the hip-hop fashion industry and the re-invention of Europe’s luxury design houses.”
Back then, like now, luxury houses didn’t truly acknowledge the hip-hop culture, though rappers and their fans were absolutely smitten with the expensive and aspirational quality of the items. For rappers, it wasn’t about understated chic–they wanted the world to know who they were wearing, and just about how much they spent on it. Dan fulfilled that need for a time–before luxury houses began to, slowly but surely, manufacture items with the logo obsessed in mind (read our archived post: Did Louis Vuitton make this for Rappers?)
Though Dan’s boutique shuttered in 1992, he’s plotting a return to the game. Sure, his claim to fame was basically counterfeiting labels, but he’s a true artisan, aware of fabrics, cut, and fit. Jay-Z’s Life + Times channel spoke to him recently about his past, and what he plans to do in the future:
See more about Dapper Dan on his website. And, of course, pick up this week’s New Yorker to read his profile. It’s available only to subscribers here (subscribe).
What do you think?